They MIGHT Be Giants

I had this conversation with my toddler a while back:

Me: [singing] Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch / Who watches over you / Make a little birdhouse in your soul

Him: Mama?  Who’s singing this song?

Me: It’s a group called They Might Be Giants.  The two main guys are named John and John.  Isn’t that silly that they are both named John?  Mama really likes their music.  Your ABCs, 123s, and Science CDs are all by them too.

Him: Mama… are they really giants?

Me: No, honey.  Mama has seen them in concert and they are regular sized… not giants.

Him: But, they might be!

Who could argue with that?

Yes, I Used My Son’s Potty!

I can’t believe I’m about to admit this.  Some of you might think it’s hysterical.  Some of you may think it’s gross.  Some of you may have done it yourselves and many of you may have thought about it.

My kids sleep in the car – a lot.  I drive around for hours a day getting my kids to nap.  I swear, between the gas being used and my Dunkin’ Donuts addiction, my children must have the most expensive naps in the world!  It’s a good thing I don’t have to pay for mileage!

Anyway, that’s not the part I’m embarrassed to admit.  We went to the zoo the other day while on vacation at the shore.  By the time we left, we were all exhausted and I couldn’t walk another step.  I finally got my son to pee in his portable potty that we keep in the car (best thing ever).  I got both kids strapped in to their car seats.  Then, I realized that I had to go too.  However, I just couldn’t make it across the parking lot to the restroom in the playground area.  It was too much of a pain to unstrap both kids, too far of a walk for my tired feet, and too risky having the temptation of the playground right there.  I was going to have to hold it.  You would think that by now I would have learned my lesson, but it seems that I am a glutton for punishment.

I started the car and headed out of the zoo with the intention of going back to the beach house where I could borrow another adult to watch my kids while I ran in to use the facilities.  But then, my husband called.  Since I had the car, he had taken a bus to a town about 40 miles north of where we were.  He was looking for his next bus to get to us.  I told him the kids had just fallen asleep and I’d be driving around for the next two hours anyway, I might as well come pick him up.

So, I went in the opposite direction of the house.  I went away from all the people who could help me.  I went away from the nearest bathroom.

The more I thought about it, the more desperate I got.  But as much as I needed to go, there was no way I was waking up my kids.

I often daydream about all of the businesses that should have drive-thrus when I’m driving around with my sleeping babies.  At this moment, a drive-in bathroom stall seemed like a really good idea.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted my saving grace… my son’s portable potty.  No, I thought.  I wouldn’t dare.  I couldn’t.  I shouldn’t.  Should I?  Could I?  Do I dare?

I pulled into an unpopulated parking lot and stared at the thing.  “You know you want to,” it seemed to say to me.  It’s times like these that being a man would be so much easier.

I looked around.  I was alone.  No one would be the wiser.

I shimmied.  I adjusted.  I wiggled.  I covered up.  I peed.  I sighed a sigh of sweet relief.

I put away and disposed of everything that needed to be put away and disposed of and I got back in the driver’s seat.

I giggled.  No one would be the wiser.

The Power of Mom

Have you heard stories about mothers who muster up super-human strength when their children are in danger? I have often wondered (but hope never to be in the position to find out) if I would find that power within me if it were ever needed. I realize, though, that there are little moments each day when we DO possess that strength – even if it is not as extreme as lifting a truck. No matter the circumstances, big or small, we just do what needs to be done for the well-being of our children and families.

For example, when we were at the beach this summer, I was watching my son play in the ocean. It was a cool out and the waves felt uncomfortably cold on my toes. On brutally hot days, I often wade in up to my knees, but on this particular day, I had absolutely no interest in getting wet. However, when my son got knocked over by a wave while playing in the surf, I was unaware of the icy cold water and felt nothing as I practically dove into the ocean to help him get back on his feet. I did what needed to be done. I was, in that moment, a supermom.

A few weeks back, my son wanted to ride his bike. So, we strapped on his helmet and I managed to finally figure out how to get my daughter into the back carry position in my Ergo. I was exhausted after a long day on my feet and was not looking forward to the walk. My bones were tired. My muscles were aching. I just wanted to be off my feet and unstrapped to a baby. We went anyway. Every step away from home meant another dreaded step back. But, when my son stumbled off his bike and scraped his knee and hand, I practically sprinted home with a baby on my back, a toddler and my hip, and a bicycle under my other arm. I could have walked miles… uphill… without regard for my throbbing feet, sore back, and overall lack of energy. I did what needed to be done. I was, in that moment, a supermom.

Recently, I made some hard-boiled eggs that were to be turned into egg salad for lunch. I put my baby girl down on the floor to play, but she had no interest in being there and let me know by wailing every time she was set down. I was without my Moby Wrap and Ergo, so I was not hands free. With a baby who needed some love on my hip, I managed to figure out how to crack and peel hard boiled eggs using only one hand. I even used chin to help me open the jar of mayonnaise and my toes to pick up the dish towel I dropped. I made the egg salad and it was delicious, all things considered. I did what needed to be done. I was, in that moment, a supermom.

You may be thinking that these are trivial events which in no way compare to the moms who can lift and move a car off of a child, and you’d be right. But, I am proud of these tiny victories nonetheless. You know how adults applaud the littlest achievement of children, like “Hooray, you ate all of your peas!” and “Hooray, you lifted your arms over your head when I asked you how big you were!”? Well, perhaps our tiny mommy (or daddy) victories should receive such accolades too (and heck, I ate all my peas and no one even noticed). These moments should be bragged about – “Hooray, you made it home from the supermarket with both children AND the groceries!” or “Hooray, you somehow managed to make a home cooked meal for dinner,” or how about “Hooray, you took a shower today!” (okay, maybe that last one’s not a great example.) My point is that we should all receive pats on the back – even just for making it through the day sometimes – because when all is said and done, we all do what needs to be done. We are all supermoms.

The Sad Tale of the Paper Towel

Today I wrote a grocery shopping list on a paper towel.  Then I forgot and used the paper towel to sop up some spilled water.  Then I threw it out.  Then I remembered.  Then I took it out of the garbage and rewrote the list on an actual piece of paper.  Then I left the wet, crumpled paper towel on the counter.  Then I went shopping.  Then I came home and started to prepare dinner.  Then I turned on the stove.  Then the ceiling fan blew the paper towel into the flames.  Then I smelled something burning.  Then I grabbed some tongs and dropped the paper towel into the sink.  Then I doused it with water.  Then I turned on the garbage disposal and pushed it down the drain.

It wasn’t a good day to be a paper towel.

Mamas Can Fix Trains, Too!

I fixed the train table.  I did it.  Me.  All.  By.  Myself.  The train tracks have been both a blessing and a curse in my house.  I found a train table on the curb one day.  It wasn’t in the greatest condition, but I figured with a little love, we could fix it up and make it like new again.  Well, that hasn’t really been done yet, but it’s clean and functional.

We bought a basic set of trains and tracks at IKEA just to get us started.  Then, we bought a few Thomas pieces and were glad to inherit many more trains and buildings from a friend whose sons had outgrown them.

Suddenly, the basic figure eight track layout seemed so dull.  In an effort to spruce it up a bit, we started changing the design.  But then it got complicated.  Once we started adding stations, water towers, and the like, things started not fitting well.  Before I knew it, we were back at the toy store getting connector pieces and more tracks.

It was difficult for my son to play with these broken up tracks.  Finally, my husband began designing a new layout.  However, now we were missing stanchions (you know, those things that hold up the raised track).  As a result, every time my son went to drive his train, the tracks would fall apart.  It became very frustrating for all parties involved!

My husband finally made some wood blocks to serve as stanchions, but due to many late nights at work he didn’t have a chance to work on fixing the tracks.  For weeks, the tracks remained relatively unplayable.  I tried to come to the rescue.  I attempted to fix the awesome layout my husband had started but, well, one thing led to another and before I knew it, the whole track was changed and unsalvageable.  To make matters worse, I didn’t take a photo before reconstruction began.  I have yet to live this down.

My in-laws came to visit and stay for a weekend.  Grandpa was tasked with trying to undo the damage I had done.  He ended up starting from scratch and made a perfectly fine track.  Then, he tried to make it fancier… and fancier… and ended up having to go back to basics with his original design as he encountered the same problems we all had.  This layout got us through.  Trains were able to move around and we were able to play, so a special thanks to Grandpa for his time and effort.  Somehow, though, it didn’t last.  My son wanted to spruce it up a bit on his own and ended up making lots of tracks to nowhere.  Sigh.

About a year ago, friends of ours donated a brand new Thomas train table to our local library.  It was great.  Although it is still there, trains are missing, pieces are broken, and the tracks are falling apart despite them being glued to the table.  Even still, the train table is a major highlight with all of the neighborhood kids when hanging out in the children’s section.  My kids and I went to play with it as we do after every weekly story hour and I suddenly had a brilliant idea.  “Take a photo.  This layout works.  Sure, we don’t have all of the same pieces, but maybe we can sort of replicate it.  Heck, it’s worth a try.”

We went home and gave it a go.  Of course, each time a new track was placed on the table, there was immediately a train on top of it.  This slowed things down a bit.  And little baby fingers that came out of nowhere kept grabbing pieces and pulling them back down to the ground to be slobbered on – also not helpful.  Still, I persevered.  I used the photo from the library as my guide and watched in amazement as it started so come together, piece by piece.

There are uphills.  There are downhills.  Tracks split then come back together.  Stanchions keep the raised track from falling.  There is a suspension bridge, a station, a water tower, a coal chute, a crane, and even a pirate ship.  I swear I heard an angelic chorus singing , “Aaaaaah,” as I placed the last piece on the track, realizing that it all fit.  No more tracks to nowhere.

Trains zoomed around the track.  A little boy giggled with excitement.  A baby girl clapped hooray.  A mama was proud.

When Papa returned from work, my son grabbed him by the hand and pulled him upstairs to see the new train setup.  On their way, I asked my husband if afterwards he would take my son outside to run around a bit before bed.  “Wow!” I heard from below.  “Screw taking him outside!  I’m playing with trains!”

Mama done good.

The Kindness of Strangers Experiment: Pizza Delivery to My Car

How many times have you been stuck in the car with a sleeping child while wishing you could run errands, get something (anything) accomplished, or go into a store or restaurant while he or she napped? In my case, it’s almost daily.

Although I’m not proud of it, I have had my fair share of drive through fast food over the last few months. This is due to the fact that many of my kids’ naps involve me driving in circles for hours while they snooze in the back seat. During these hours of driving aimlessly, I have had a lot of time to think about a whole lot of nothing such as why aren’t there any drive through pizza joints or Chinese food places?

This brings me to my first experiment in my Kindness of Strangers series: Pizza Delivery to My Car.

It was lunchtime and we were out and about. My 3 year old wanted pizza for lunch and we were headed to get some when my baby daughter fell asleep in the car earlier than expected. Since neither of my children transfer well, I couldn’t bring the car seat in to the pizza place and expect her to remain asleep. I was trying to come up with a plan. My first idea involved picking up my husband at work, driving him to the pizza place, getting him to buy a slice for my son, and having a picnic in the parking lot before returning him to his office. Somehow, I didn’t think that would go over very well. The next plan involved driving home and ordering pizza to be delivered to the house, but for only two slices, it just didn’t seem like the best choice (and it probably would have taken too long). As I was working on my next crazy idea, I looked in the rear view mirror to discover that my son was now sleeping too. Figures.

Although his nap bought me some time, I was now starving and knew that I would not be able to wait the two hours or so until they woke up to first have lunch. And of course, I now had pizza on the brain, so that was all I wanted to eat. But, other than leaving my kids unattended in the car (which I would never do), the words that kept running through my head were “What’s a girl gotta do to get a slice around here?”

I remembered that the pizza place close to my husband’s office has a big, glass front and there is a loading zone right in front. I thought. I pondered. I wondered. I pulled in.

I took out my smart phone and looked up their phone number. I called.

“Hi!” I said to the gentleman in the white t-shirt and apron at the other end of the phone. “I’m right outside of your restaurant in the gray SUV.” I waved and noticed the inquisitive look on his face. “My kids are both sound asleep in the car and, since I can’t leave them alone, I was wondering if it might be possible to get two slices delivered to my car.”

“Uh… okay. I guess so,” he replied, and I watched as our two pieces got placed in the oven to be warmed up.

I scrambled around looking for enough spare change to be able to pay him in cash. I figured it wasn’t quite fair to make him run back and forth just to swipe my credit card. When my food was ready, I watched him gather napkins, my slices, some plates, and plastic utensils. I planned on meeting him half-way, but of course, dropped some of the coins on the floor of the car as he made his way towards my car. I picked up the coins and found him right next to the driver’s side window. I rolled my window down, took the food, and handed him money for the pizza plus whatever extra I had (it wasn’t much, unfortunately) as a tip.

I thanked him profusely, waved goodbye to him once he was back behind the counter, saw him smile and realize that he did a good thing, and drove off with the smell of cheesy goodness filling the car.

Many, many thanks to the kindness of this stranger.

The Kindness of Strangers Experiment (Because We All Need a Helping Hand Sometimes)

Being a mom with a toddler and a baby is a difficult job, there’s no denying that. As hard as it is, it is also difficult to admit sometimes that we occasionally need a helping hand. We are all supermoms in our own right, so to ask for help can be frustrating and make us feel less capable than we really are.

I have recently had situations where I have needed assistance and did not receive it from passersby or the folks around me. Two stories come to mind.

First, I was out for a walk with my children – my baby girl was in the wrap and my toddler son was walking along side his stroller. I stopped to tie his shoe and didn’t put the brake on the stroller since no one was in it. As I bent down, the stroller began to roll off the sidewalk and into the street. Before I could catch it, the stroller toppled off of the curb and flipped over in the street between two parked cars, spilling coffee and whatever was in the bucket underneath everywhere. There’s me, trying to keep my curious boy from walking into the street to see what happened, keep my baby girl’s head from flopping around too much as I try to right the stroller, and keep whatever coffee was left in the travel mug from spilling all over me. Two women walked by this ridiculous scene. Instead of asking “Are you ok? Can we help you?” or anything like that, I heard one of them “Tsk” and say to her friend, “Good thing there was no kid in there!” Thanks, lady. They did nothing to help. They just walked on by. I managed, which I always do, but some assistance (or even just them checking in with me) would have been appreciated.

Second, while traveling alone with the kids in Washington DC while my husband attended a conference, my stroller got closed in the doors of the Metro. I was, once again, wearing a sleeping baby and holding onto a toddler who was, once again, walking along side his stroller, and I was stuck. I yelled for someone on the train or the platform to help me and no one did. I yelled again. Still no help. I yelled louder “Could someone PLEASE help me!?!” which made my son started to get a little scared. Finally, a little old lady got out of her seat and tried to pry the doors open while other very capable men and women looked on. One other person also eventually got the hint and got up to assist, but only after he realized that the frail gray-haired woman couldn’t pull the doors apart by herself.

There are a number of other occasions where people have seen me struggling a bit and have not offered their assistance. I’ve had doors hit me when people can’t bother to hold them open, I’ve had people watch me scramble after a grocery shopping bag ripped open spilling canned goods all over the parking lot of the supermarket, and I’ve waited in intersections to cross the street with both kids in extremely cold weather or heavy rain or snow as cars sped by splashing us instead of allowing us to cross safely. What has happened to simple human decency?

I don’t like needing help and I especially don’t like asking for it… I’m stubborn like that. But these experiences have made me curious about people and what some folks are willing to do for a mom they’ve never met. I am certainly no martyr nor will I ever be a damsel in distress. However, I have decided to start my own little social experiment in a series I’m calling “The Kindness of Strangers.”  My intention is to ask for help when I could use a helping hand or take people up on their offers to assist me. There won’t be any TV cameras nor will anybody be “served.” It will just be about people helping people. I’m curious as to what will happen and I’m hoping to have some of my faith in people restored. To be continued…

When a Typical Monday Becomes UN-Halloween!

June 4, 2012, 4:00pm.  “Mama, is it Halloween?” asked my three year old son as he looked in the toy closet and discovered the green plastic pumpkin that he used to collect candy last October.  “No, honey.  Halloween is in the fall when it’s getting colder out.  It’s springtime now and getting warmer out.  We have to wait a few more months.”

This statement caused his bottom lip to protrude into one of the saddest pouty faces I ever saw.  Then, as if in a cartoon, I swear I saw a lightbulb appear over his head.  “I have an idea!” he exclaimed.  “Let’s celebrate UN-Halloween today!”  I raised an eyebrow.  “Let’s go UN-Trick or Treating!”

“What do you propose?” I asked, feeling that slight twinge of excitement in my belly and anticipating his response.  “Well, let’s get some lollipops, ring peoples’ doorbells, and give THEM candy!”  His eyes were bright and twinkling.

“Do we have to dress up in costume?” I asked, wanting to make sure I celebrated this holiday correctly.  “No, Mama, because it’s UN-Halloween!”  He looked at me and shook his head.

So, we took his green pumpkin, filled it with Dum Dum lollipops, put on our shoes, tucked the baby in her wrap, and set out on our adventure.  We started with our friends and neighbors, figuring that at least they would be receptive to the idea.  After we chatted with and amused them a bit, we went up to many other houses, rang the bell and waited, just as if it was the real Halloween.

“Can I help you?” was a typical response from the confused person standing at the door.  “Happy UN-Halloween!” we’d shout… well, mostly I had to shout as my son suddenly became shy.  To this, the perplexed person would just look at me, then at my son, then at me again, not quite sure what to do with that information.  I, of course, would then have to follow up with, “We are UN-Trick or Treating today, so we are here to give YOU candy!”

My son would then reach into his green pumpkin, pull out a Dum Dum, hand it to the person, then run on to the next house.  Many of the people still stood there, lollipop in hand, and uttered an unsure “Thanks?”  As confused as most people were, almost all of them ended up with a big smile on their faces.

My son was delighted.  This made him feel so good inside and he can’t wait to do it again (I guess we’ll have to take a different route).  It was wonderful to see him having such a blast with something that was entirely his idea.  Not only did we spread a little cheer on what happened to be a nasty fall-like day in June, we ended up meeting some nice folks in our neighborhood, and created a brand new holiday.

Not bad for a Monday!

A Public Service Announcement from a Toddler

We all look for teachable moments.  Of course, toddlers always have a knack for asking questions very loudly and not always with tact.  “Mama, where is all that man’s hair?”  “Mama, why is that lady in a wheelchair?”  The possibilities for awkwardness are endless.

My three year old son is notorious for this.  I always try to answer his genuine curiosity in an age-appropriate yet truthful manner.  Recently, he noticed someone smoking.  “Mama, what’s that guy doing?”  So, I went on to explain what cigarettes were and why they were bad for you (sparing the really ugly details).  The question of “If it can make them sick, why do they do it?” was a lot harder to answer.

Since our teachable moment, my son has pointed out every cigarette he sees on the ground and every person he sees smoking.  He has also decided that it’s important that we let people know that they shouldn’t smoke.  Coming from a child, I could see people being receptive to the suggestion that they quit, but my son takes me by the hand, walks me up to the smoker, and says, “Mama, tell them.  Tell them that they shouldn’t do that.  Tell them that it can make them sick.”  And I stand there flabbergasted.

I have to think quickly.  What do I do?  If I tell them what he wants me to tell them, I’m being a self-righteous (in the eyes of the other adult) know-it-all.  If I don’t say something, then the lesson I’ve tried to teach him doesn’t hold its importance.  I look down at him holding my hand and he looks up at me with his big brown eyes and what else can I do?  I take a deep (smoke-free) breath and approach the “offender.”

“Hi,” I say sheepishly.  “My son asked me about cigarettes and smoking recently and I told him what they were and that they aren’t good for you.  Because of that, he wants me to tell you that you shouldn’t do it.”  (Yes, I feel the need to give the background story so that they’ll understand where I’m coming from.)

So far, surprisingly, I haven’t been yelled at or had a beverage thrown in my face.  The smokers we’ve approached (about six already) have all nodded in agreement and have said something to the effect of, “You’re right.  Smoking IS bad and I shouldn’t do it.  Don’t ever start.”

I then thank them for their time and walk away hoping that I did right by my child.  I can’t say that our Public Service Announcement has convinced anyone to quit, but I wonder if they go home and tell someone about the little boy and his mommy who told them they should stop smoking.  I wonder if this experience makes them think of what kind of example they want to set.  I wonder if it changes their idea of the kind of role model they want to be.  I wonder if our teachable moment taught someone else too.  I wonder.

 

The Flower Child: A Poem I Wrote 22 Years Ago

I recently came across this poem that I wrote when I was a freshman in high school – May 14, 1990 to be exact.  Just thought I’d share it.

 

The Flower Child

A child is a flower

That opens up to bloom

Just like a little seed

Still in its mother’s womb.

As time goes on it ages

Each petal is a year

Hoping to cling fast to

The love that’s held most dear.

The petals start to break off

As the child drifts away

While wishing it re-flowers

And blooms again one day.

 

I got an A minus.

 

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